Whenever Aunt Flo comes to town, it’s like the worst family visit ever. It requires a lot of extra effort, gets pretty uncomfortable, and by the end you’re just ready for it to be over.

But sometimes, your period just won’t stop. From medication to a medical condition, there’s a broad range of potential reasons that you can’t catch a break. If your period has really overstayed its welcome, it’s probably time to talk with your doctor.

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Photography by Megan Madden; Prop Styling by Sara Schipani

First, it’s important to understand if your period isn’t stopping or if it’s just a little longer than usual. There’s a wide range of what’s considered “normal” for your period. Most will last somewhere between 2 to 7 days.

If you’ve had your period for over a week, you’re bleeding heavily, or if you’re experiencing sharp pain, it’s a good idea to talk with your doc. There’s a bunch of causes that could be behind your endless flow.

Fibroids

Fibroids are extra cells that grow in the muscles of your uterus. And while they’re usually “benign” (aka noncancerous), they can cause irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding.

Sometimes fibroids can be asymptomatic (which means you won’t notice them). But they can also cause side effects like:

Polyps

Endometrial polyps are growths in your uterine lining and they’re pretty common. Polyps won’t always cause symptoms. But there are some signs you can look for, such as:

  • spotting (bleeding between periods)
  • unpredictable bleeding during your period
  • irregular periods

Your IUD

Certain kinds of IUDs (intrauterine devices), can cause heavy bleeding. Copper IUDs can also cause these side effects:

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is a fertilized egg that is growing outside of the uterus, typically in one of your fallopian tubes.

Your fallopian tubes connect your ovaries to your uterus. They weren’t built to hold a growing baby, so they can burst if the fetus gets too big. That can cause major, life threatening internal bleeding and require immediate surgery.

An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency that can cause abnormal vaginal bleeding, as well as several other symptoms:

  • pain in your abdomen (can be focused on one side)
  • pain in your pelvis, shoulder, or neck
  • dizziness or fainting
  • rectal pressure (feels like you have to poop)
  • severe, widespread pain

If you think you might be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, go to the emergency room right away.

FYI: It’s more common if you’re using in vitro fertilization (IVF) or if you’ve had a surgery around your belly, like a cesarean section.

Miscarriage

A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss that happens within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. They’re relatively common, with about 10 to 15 percent of known pregnancies resulting in miscarriage.

Bleeding is one of the most common symptoms and it can last several days.

Other signs of a miscarriage include:

  • early pregnancy symptoms (think: breast tenderness, nausea) before the bleeding started
  • passing other fluids and tissue, which sometimes looks like big clots
  • cramps or abdominal pain

Risk factors include older age, a previous miscarriage, and some underlying health conditions, like high blood pressure.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a condition where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus. It could affect at least 11 percent of women during their reproductive years.

Endometriosis can cause heavy periods or bleeding between periods. Other telltale signs include:

Adenomyosis

This condition occurs when the uterus lining grows into the wall of the uterus. All of that extra tissue makes for a thick uterine wall. When it’s time to shed that uterine lining, it causes long, heavy, and painful periods.

Other symptoms of adenomyosis include:

  • pelvic pain before your period
  • a heavy feeling in your pelvis
  • painful sex
  • painful poops

FYI: Adenomyosis is most common for people between 40 and 50 years old.

Bleeding disorders (like Von Willebrand disease)

Some bleeding disorders, including Von Willebrand disease, can keep your blood from clotting. That can lead to heavy bleeding during your period.

If you have a bleeding disorder, you’ll probably notice other symptoms like:

  • unexplained nosebleeds
  • frequent bruising
  • heavy bleeding after a cut or a scrape

Hypothyroidism

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck that makes hormones. When its production is out of whack, it can throw off your menstrual cycle. If you have hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), it can cause long, heavy periods.

You can also look for these symptoms:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a syndrome that can cause cysts to grow on your ovaries. It can also increase your level of androgen (a male hormone) and lead to insulin resistance. It’s relatively common and a frequent cause of infertility.

Because it can affect your hormone levels, PCOS can cause long, heavy periods. Other signs include:

  • irregular periods
  • skipped periods
  • hair growth on your face or chin
  • acne (especially along your jaw line)
  • thinning hair
  • weight gain and/or difficulty losing weight
  • trouble getting pregnant

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection caused by vaginal or cervical bacteria getting into your uterus. This can cause tissue damage and scarring, and those can cause bleeding.

Other symptoms:

Certain medications

Some medications can cause heavier, longer bleeding during your period. Anti-inflammatories (like Tylenol or Aleve), Aspirin, and blood thinners could all impact your bleeding.

Perimenopause

Before you enter menopause (when your period stops forever), you’ll go through perimenopause.

Once perimenopause begins, the normal estrogen and progesterone patterns of a menstrual cycle will change, and that can cause you to have long and heavy periods for a few months.

If your super long period is followed by shorter, lighter, or even nonexistent ones in the next few months, perimenopause is likely to blame.

Cancer

Uterine and cervical cancers can cause abnormal or heavier-than-normal flow.

If you have one of these cancers, you’ll probably experience other symptoms too, including:

  • bleeding after sex
  • pain during sex
  • pain in your abdomen or lower back
  • abnormal discharge

FYI: These cancers tend to occur in people over the age of 40, but they can develop in younger people.

There isn’t an easy way to end your period on the spot. But if mega long periods are starting to interfere with your daily life, there are some things that can help you cope.

Medical treatments

First, your doctor will work to figure out what’s causing your extra-long period. Depending on the issue, there are some common treatments they might discuss with you.

  • Iron supplements to treat or prevent anemia.
  • Birth control pills or hormonal IUDs to help regulate and lighten your periods.
  • Surgery to remove fibroids and polyps, or to treat your endometriosis.
  • Clotting medications for a bleeding disorder.
  • Methotrexate or surgery to treat an ectopic pregnancy.

Here are some home remedies you can try

If you’re not experiencing any symptoms of a medical emergency and you’re waiting to hear back from your doc, there are some things you can try on your own to deal with your marathon flow.

  • Make sure you’re getting enough iron. Iron deficiency anemia can happen after heavy blood loss. Women between 19 to 50 years old should try to get about 18 milligrams of iron daily. Younger women, older women, and men will need less.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated helps your body just function better. It can help you feel less light-headed, combat fatigue, improve your digestion, and so much more.
  • Soothe the pain. If you’re experiencing painful cramps, you can try resting a heating pad on your belly.

If you experience a super long and heavy period along with other serious symptoms like fainting, go to the hospital right away.

Call your doc or a healthcare provider if you have other signs that something’s up, including:

  • Your period lasts longer than 7 days.
  • You soak through more than one tampon or pad per hour.
  • The clots are bigger than a quarter.
  • You’re bleeding after menopause.
  • You’re bleeding in between periods.
  • Your quality of life is being affected.

If it seems like your period won’t stop, there are several causes that could be to blame. You can’t stop your period, but you can take steps to take care of yourself when it’s hanging around.

Call your doctor if you’ve had your period for more than 7 days or if you have symptoms of a medical condition that could be behind your bleeding.